933 S. Gramercy Pl.

This seven-room, 1,840sf Craftsman bungalow was built in the spring of 1912, in the Country Club Park tract, by the contracting team of Peter J. Schulte & William J. Wisler. Wisler was the owner.

There are precious few Craftsmans left in this part of the world; they’ve been nearly exterminated east of Wilton. It is especially noteworthy to find one that has not been stuccoed, windows changed out, porches enclosed, etc.

Look closely at the expressive use of brick in on the chimney and porch.

Then, one day, she is put up for sale:

Sold in November of ’17 for $1,390,000

Interestingly, when 933 was listed, they stated “it can be demolished to create 8 to 9 new condo or apartment units”—

It should surprise no-one here that they intend to build twice that:

Sixty-seven feet? Nearest thing that tall is a half-mile north on Wilshire.

One last look. This time with boarded-up windows.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

361 N. Citrus Ave.

I get it.  We have private property rights.  If I have the money to outbid a museum to buy a Tintoretto or an Edward Hopper, and then go home and toss it in the fireplace, more power to me.  If there’s a grove of old-growth trees, some sylvan forest producing shade and oxegyn, where children have froliced in the bucolic glades for generations, I’ll buy it and clearcut it and leave the slash piles to rot because I can.  I won’t, mind you, but I can, for we are endowed by our Creator with all sorts of inalienable rights, codified by the Bill of Rights, among which lives freedom of speech, which I’m going to use here and now to say that Mr. Reuven Gradon is a moral leper.

It’s not so much Gradon bought a great house and tore it down.  Rather, that he deceived the owners to do so.  He procured the house through trickery and deceit for no other reason than to demolish it.  

361 North Citrus, by Henry Knauer & Clarence Smale, was built in 1927 as an Architect’s Show Home, that is, a design showcase example, at the southwest corner of Citrus and Oakwood in Hancock Park. There she lived peacefully and was purchased about 2010 by the Coles, who restored the girl, up to and including new piping, wiring, and a full seismic retrofit.

After being in the house about a decade, it was time to sell; they listed on July 18th, 2019, and the offers came in. Many were over asking. One came on July 29th, with this letter:

Boy, Gradon sure likes character—the home is exceptional in character, and they love the character of the home; 1920s character has a special place in his heart, so he loves acquiring buildings with character, especially ones with such incredibly rich character

Now that just drips with sincerity. They’re going to deepen their roots in this, the home of their dreams. They’re going to fill it with joy and heart. Hell, even the three-year-old loves the house.

As one Curbed commenter pointed out, Cole may have rejected a higher offer because of this letter, and may also have accepted Gradon’s offer because it was without contingencies, like inspection and repairs—specifically because, unbeknownst to Cole, Gradon intended to demolish the house and didn’t care about such things. (Though most of the Curbed commentariat, of course, went on about how opposing historic demolitions meant you were a loathsome boomer NIMBY).

In any event, the Coles sold the house to Gradon. This is Reuven Gradon:

IconicInvestments

The house went into escrow on August 5th, 2019 and Gradon closed sale/took ownership September 18th.  He got his demo permit on October 18th only because he stated, via the legal stipulation, that he had physically posted notice on the house about its impending demolition, thirty days prior, on September 18th:

Gradon is awarded his demolition permit on October 18th. Problem is, according to neighborhood residents, Gradon never did, in fact, post any such notice thirty days prior:

Moreover, LADBS would not have issued the demolition permit without approved plans for the new building in hand, further indication Gradon always intended to demolish and rebuild.  (Besides, as a developer, how is it possible he bought a house without realizing it wouldn’t suit his needs?)

Here’s another wrinkle—so to recap—Gradon goes into escrow August 5th and supposedly discovers during the ensuing 45-day-period that the house, I dunno, doesn’t have enough character, so on the morning he is handed the keys to the front door, September 18th, he heads down to good ol’ 201 North Figueroa and files to demolish, thus, he will get his demolition permit issued October 18th. Which he does. The Department of Building and Safety fails to and does not, despite their own law, send written notice “at least thirty days prior” to the three abutting property owners. Again, nor does Gradon post public notice per the law. Rather, after thirty days of quiet ownership of 361 it’s October 18th and DBS issues him his demolition permit. Conveniently, it’s a Friday, and shocked residents find out bulldozers are firing up and their calls to the City ring off the wall. Some say Gradon did put the demo signage up on October 18th (though neighbors dispute he did even this)—but behind some shrubbery inside his dining room window, so it’s a moot point, as that’s both a month too late and in contradiction of LADBS order to post in a “conspicuous place.”

One way or another the neighborhood gets wind of his plan and Saturday morning, social media is doing its thing:

But it’s too late, the work week begins Monday and by lunchtime Wednesday the house is gone. Everything, all the hand-carved woodwork, the vintage tile, the antique fixtures, even the mature fruit trees, nothing is salvaged: it’s all torn asunder and dumpstered as a great big extra fuck you.

Allow me then to collect (via the Redfin listing) and display some images—

Truly magnificent 1927 gated corner lot architectural showplace designed by Henry Knauer & Clarence Smale AIA as one of the original design showcase homes of this prominent Hancock Park neighborhood. Unprecedented craftsmanship and detailing featuring custom interior/exterior millwork, wood floors, leaded glass diamond paned windows and more. The home is anchored by a true “Great Room” with approx 15 ft ceiling & massive Batchelder tiled fireplace, transformable into a home theatre with a push of a button. Outfitted with an 11ft wide/2.39 retractable movie screen with adjustable matting for 16.9, it also includes digital projector and built in 7.1 sound system. Formal dining and breakfast rooms, butler’s pantry w original wood drain board and classic black and white reimagined chef’s kitchen w/ granite counters and Viking stove. Master suite and 2 additional bedrooms 1 en-suite & period tile bath detailing. Walk up attic/office room, basement, and separate laundry room workshop not included in sq ft. Magical gardens include an outdoor living/dining area w fireplace, grassy play area & iron pergola shaded dining patio, front and rear porches and so much more. Step back in time to an era of quality and detail. Minutes to movies, shopping, top restaurants, makes this truly one of the special locations in Los Angeles.

Look at the inlays in the floors, which I believe are White Oak

About this Batchelder fireplace.  Any six-year-old can tell you that Batchelder is important.     

I asked Brian Kaiser, one of the foremost authorities on 1920s Southern California tile, and an expert in tile restoration, preservation and salvage, about this one.   In an email exchange Kaiser said:

The fireplace is (WAS) quite special. A deluxe, deluxe example.  The Terra Cotta mantel is one of the most elaborate and detailed that he made. I have never seen it before. The mantel was the most expensive part of the fireplace. There were many “Grades” of mantels.  The beautiful, very detailed Pilasters, are rarely seen. They are also very special. The corbels above them are very large and also rare. The spandrels are also very, very nice. The hearth has a “Curb”. It helps stop ashes from coming out into the living room. Probably based on an actual English fireplace from the Middle Ages. A very impressive, and classy design. A terrible, terrible, tragedy that it was not saved. I could have had it out in 3-4 days.

Now let’s discuss these bathrooms:

I spoke with Max Solomon, head of the Los Angeles design and restoration firm Augustus Interiors.  He said that given the watercolor style and coloring, the tile work was in all likelihood H & R Johnson, an English manufacturer favored during the interbellum years in the most high-end homes.  The use of the tony, trend-setting maker stands to reason further, Solomon asserts, since “they wouldn’t skimp on a showcase house, plus the H & R Johnson showroom was located nearby; moreover the house was Tudor, so an English tile maker would be all the more appropriate.”

That low, long vanity on the left, though, is modern, and of course so are the toilets
This, and the next four photos, from the Los Angeles Conservancy Facebook Page
colbyartsandarchs
There’s a Batchelder fireplace somewhere in there
raylbarnhart

And so the house and all its charm and memories are gone. All that’s left is this letter to the editor from the Coles:

Larchmont Chronicle

…and a lesson to the people of Los Angeles. Perhaps, if there is a silver lining, it’s that this lesson may enrage and engage some folk, and call them to action; posts like this one

use terms like mark my words—this will not happen again—enough is enough.

Postscript—but gosh, maybe I’m being too hard on Mr. Gradon. According to this, Reuven and wife Shevy “are going to build something much more beautiful.” I’d be happy to look over the plans you had in hand weeks ago at DBS and critique them sir, and if I’m wrong about all this, I’ll eat my words. Of course you’ll be spending thrice what you paid to match that level of materials and craftsmanship, but I certainly respect that choice. Here’s to the new 361!

13921 Vanowen St., Van Nuys

These three little contiguous flats were built by W. P. Short in the fall of ’48. The house in back was constructed in 1954.

Nice birds of paradise, too

The continued abhorrence of anything lo-slung and lo-density requires these be replaced with, as you might imagine, vastly increased height and density, and because density proponents will tell you this is “green,” there’s also a massive reduction in green space.

3755 S. Canfield Ave., Palms

This two-story six-unit apartment building was designed by engineer J. Doherty in the spring of 1962, and will be gone soon, which is a shame, as there aren’t a whole lot left in area that reek so of 1962.

They’re building four stories but only adding two units? Must be some capacious apartments.

1844 N Alexandria Ave.

This handsome Los Feliz house was built in 1912.

She needs a little love, but don’t we all? Like my aunt Gladys, nothing a coat of paint can’t fix. Plus she hasn’t been stuccoed, the windows are original, and the porch hasn’t been enclosed. And dig those dramatic gables. Bonus factoid: First Lieutenant Dale C. Tipton, when released from a Nazi POW camp in June of ’45, well, this is the house he came home to.

Though she’s to be torn down for an apartment building, remarkably, the developers are not going TOC with a five-story, forty-some unit structure.

Hate to see her go.

The Blog is Changing a Bit

Not that I don’t love scribbling the overwrought vitriolic screed but the problem is those things take time. And the problem is, I’ve got this other architectural/ social history to write, and a publisher who’s after me to finish it, so it behooves me to spend my time making that deadline.

The content of this blog will therefore streamline some—as in, instead of the usual lengthy discourse, with its links and pretty pictures and meandering diatribes, I’ll post a building, its architect when I can, and what’s to become of it, short and sweet. I wanted to point this out so that you didn’t think I was just slacking off, or didn’t love you anymore.

The good/bad news, then, is I should be posting with greater regularity. Besides, you probably already know where I stand on the subjects of density and TOC and the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance (and I haven’t even talked about the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance).

And then when my book is finished we’ll be back to our usual rancorous broadsides against the moral lepers who would have Los Angeles become some super-regulated version of Kowloon City.

On Another Note

When the people of Budapest have a piece of Soviet-era architecture, like Kossuth Square 4-6 (Béla Pintér, 1972), which they deem…inappropriate, especially in a landscape as great as Kossuth Square, they remodel it, so it may reflect the regional consciousness.

Above, a grim reminder of the MSzMP; below, the remodel, based on 1928 architectural plans of Dezső Hültl

When the people of Los Angeles, when presented with something as simple and culture-defining as a green-and-black tiled 1931 bathroom, they too deem it inappropriate, and remodel it so it may reflect…what, exactly?

Leo DiCaprio’s bathroom—one of them, anyway—for the past twenty years, at 1675 Angelus Avenue
God bless flippers, saving us from Art Deco so we may shower in the ubiquitous hotel bathroom of Everytown, USA

Too Ugly for a YIMBY?!

I was on the Facebook GrowLA page last week and came across something that made me ask, can a developer make a building so ugly even a YIMBY can’t love it? (Roughly analogous to the old test o’ faith can God make a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it?) And the answer, apparently, is yes.

It was on this post I saw a collection of images shot by a Mr. David Schumacher—here’s some:

These are all down around USC. Most of Schumacher’s shots are of near-identical Tripalink structures. You have to look twice before you realize oh, right, these are in fact different buildings.

I’ll bet you a Coke that’s fake grass

Unbelievably, the YIMBYs thought their own beloved mid-block ultra-dense max-height econobox cubes were, for once, less than appealing:

If, at the outset, you’re asking what is a YIMBY? that stands for Yes In My Backyard, meaning they are anti-NIMBY, who don’t want development in their backyard. YIMBYs want development in your backyard; there’s no actual evidence they’ll accept it in theirs. They’re the sort who pee themselves a little with glee and break into song when, for example, single family zoning is eradicated:

But predictably, enough is never enough:

They also invariably refer to NIMBYs as “boomer NIMBYs”.

I can assure Mr. Sanchez, there are a lot of his Millenial brethren who are fans of a human-scale Los Angeles. In fact, the NIMBY comes in all forms, and you might read more about them here and here and here.

But what of these bilious buildings which elicited such a response?

As I said, many down by USC are built by Tripalink. Tripalink is based in Los Angeles, building primarily for Chinese USC students. “It is our mission to establish a truly co-living neighborhood, to redefine the experience of living overseas” which they do through building multi-unit co-living set-ups. In this article, Tripalink CEO Donghao Li uses phrases like “the value of connectivity fostered by Co-living community” and “Co-living is the trendiest lifestyle in recent years” resulting in a “supreme living experience”…and pairs it with this image:

Totally supreme

Which may raise the question, what is co-living exactly? Simply put, it’s teaching young people to live with less. Instead of having an apartment with a bathroom and kitchenette, say, they have their little bedroom, with a communal kitchen and toilet down the hall. Modern co-living stems primarily from Dutch communism in the 1960s, from which springs lots of lofty words about sharing and connection and such. Ultimately it’s people getting the Youth of Today accustomed to their Glorious Tomorrow: tighter space, fewer amenities, on the pretext of combatting loneliness, and being cheap. I suppose there should be something charming about a return to Dickensian living but I’m not seeing it. I thought part of the the appeal of Los Angeles was to escape the tenements of the east…though in this case I guess I refer to tong lau, and not the Lower East Side.

But anyway. Let’s look at some recent losses. Here at 1224 West 35th was this house, built in 1906, on a block of vintage homes—

—demolished recently, but you can live in the Tripalink replacement:

Don’t have an image of the new property but it possibly looks like this (from here) or maybe this (from here)

Or here at 1607 West 35th Place, God save us from another one of those dreaded Single Family Homes!

This one was built in 1910, again, in the middle of a block of similarly scaled homes
Gone, being replaced by another sixteen-unit, three-story Tripalink structure

Of course the disingenuous chuckleheads at Curbed have for years been saying stuff like:

But imagine my shock, YIMBYs are certainly not fine with with allowing that, and as we’ve seen again and again and again and again and again, it’s been by and large five-story buildings with no parking right in the middle of side streets. (But nice thing about Tripalink? Hey, at least they’re only three-story buildings.)

To which I might add, in looking at the images shot by Mr. Schumacher, they seem to feature a decided lack of flora. Likely because the City has bent over backward to allow developers to not plant trees. This, despite the immense amount we have lost recently; I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of their benefits.

Those, then, are my musings on seeing a simple Facebook post from our demo-happy, density-disposed pals over at GrowLA. Cheers!

10555 Bloomfield Street, Toluca Lake

Raise a glass to classic Valley living—low slung, two story, lots of trees, predominantly Postwar, i.e., the vaunted, vilified suburban dream.

For example: the homes, top, other side of the alley, are from 1936 and 1940; along Cahuenga, hiding under the foliage, the houses are 1949, 1949 and 1946, and then at bottom right, is 10555 Bloomfield, built in 1941.

She’s a little hard to see from the street, what with all the trees and bougainvillea.

Still, with a little maneuvering of the Googlemobile, we can peek in:

The house was designed for engineer Floyd Martin Boes by architect A. Godfrey Bailey, who designed these and all of this.

You knew where this was going:

Of course, all of that air-cleaning flora will be torn out and dumpster’d too, especially since the fifty-seven-unit structure gets to reduce its open space considerably and build to the edges of the lot. But, somewhere in the subterranean garage the developer is adding room for bicycles! This project is green!

The social engineers insist it’s green because, despite the fact that with this density comes, say, overburdened resources, emissions from outflow stacks, the Urban Heat Island, cars sitting in traffic, and so forth (and no, those sixty-nine parking spaces filled with Tolucan EVs aren’t fooling anyone), rather, they’ll say it’s green because no-one deserves a single-family home. Trust me, I don’t follow the logic either, but then also I don’t get how they’ll put fifty-seven units on the site of a single family home.

I’ll give ’em this, though. If we estimate 100 people live in the new complex, that’s on average 3,500lbs of trash for the trash trucks to pick up each week. At least they won’t have any green bins to empty.

Magnolia Update

I had based my tale of 1238 on the application at Planning for the 36-unit that was being plopped on the site; the demo permit I linked to in the text was issued back in July. Was contacted by an area resident to inform me the house was already gone.

The black box replacing these two will be taller than that Canary Island Date Palm

And its wonderful neighbor reduced to this. Because density über alles.

And of this one up at the corner—

I will say this, though, in defense of their replacements. They will absolutely define our age. In a generation, people will look at their SimCity/Minecraft architectonic form and say yep, that’s 2020 in a nutshell.

And then tear them the hell down.